New York Times Union Members Stage 24-Hour Strike

From The Poynter Report with Tom Jones:

Following up on their threat, more than 1,100 unionized New York Times employees walked off the job Thursday for a 24-hour strike. It’s the latest salvo in contract negotiations that have been tense since the union’s last contract expired in March 2021.

My Poynter colleague Angela Fu wrote, “In an effort to avert the strike, both sides met for bargaining on Tuesday and Wednesday, which led to some progress. The Times agreed to keep its pension plan in place and expanded fertility treatment benefits. However, the company ended negotiations Wednesday evening when they received notification from union members that the strike would proceed. The NewsGuild said those notifications were from members who ‘did the responsible thing’ and let their managers know they would honor the walkout if it happened. In notes to employees, company executives wrote that they were disappointed that the union had decided to strike since progress was still being made at the bargaining table.”

The New York Times Guild put out a tweet Thursday that said, “To our readers: We did not make this decision lightly. We are deeply committed to the success of the @nytimes. We also know that we produce our best work when we feel valued and are treated equitably. Thank you for standing by us today.”

Meanwhile, New York Times spokesperson Danielle Rhoades Ha said the union informed the company of a one-day strike while negotiations were ongoing. She wrote, “It is disappointing that they are taking such an extreme action when we are not at an impasse.”

Times executive editor Joe Kahn told the Times, “Strikes typically happen when talks deadlock. That is not where we are today. While the company and the NewsGuild remain apart on a number of issues, we continue to trade proposals and make progress toward an agreement.”

Dozens of Times union members rallied outside the Times’ New York main headquarters on Thursday afternoon. That included carrying signs, handing out pamphlets and making speeches.

Veteran Times reporter and union member Michael Powell told NPR’s David Folkenflik, “From my point of view, this is an absolutely necessary shot across the bow. We’re approaching three years now without a contract. We’ve seen our salaries — almost all of us — go straight backward, over the years. That’s not acceptable.”

Not everyone walked out

The big news that broke early Thursday morning was that WNBA star Brittney Griner was being released from Russian detention after a prisoner swap.

If you went to The New York Times’ website on Thursday, the Griner story was the main featured story. And it was written by two prominent Times White House correspondents — Peter Baker and Michael Shear. The two high-profile reporters were not among the Times staffers who walked out Thursday.

Semafor’s Max Tani reported that the two told their colleagues ahead of time that they would not be participating in the one-day walkout. Tani wrote, “The rift in the powerful Washington bureau reflects a lingering generational and ideological divide between many in the newsroom and a group of older unionized staff in the D.C bureau. Some staff in the D.C bureau believe the union should focus more on compensation and other concrete worker protections, and less on broader cultural and social issues that have also been part of the union’s bargaining proposals. Union leaders have tried to keep the focus largely on economic issues which unite a larger part of the union.”

Tani added, “The New York NewsGuild, the labor union that represents that Times, says 80% of union members (around 1160 staffers) signed pledges to participate in the strike, including journalists, advertising staff, and security guards.”

Some Times staffers took to social media to encourage readers to not partake in Times products on Thursday — including such things as newsletters, “The Daily” podcast and even Wordle, the popular word game in the Times’ Games section.

The Times website on Thursday was still full of stories written by staffers, but the NewsGuild tweeted, “If you see someone’s name on a story on Thursday or Friday, it does not necessarily mean they crossed the picket line to write it. Newspapers often have reporters write portions of stories ahead of time when possible.”

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